Saturday, August 15, 2015

Kalispell, Somers and Whitefish, Montana

August 9-10, 2015:

It was a 120 mile ride almost entirely on route 93 north to Polson then along the western shore of Flathead Lake to Kalispell, Montana.  We have a reservation at the Rocky Mountain “Hi” Campground for two nights.  Flathead Lake is a major vacation area being the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. It is a remnant of the ancient massive glacial dammed lake, Lake Missoula.  This route takes you through the 1.3 million acre confederation of Salish, Pend d'Orville and Kootenai indian reservation.

Flathead lake view

Kalispell is a gateway to Glacier National Park and was founded by Charles Edward Conrad, a businessman and banker, who formed the Kalispell townsite company and began selling lots in 1891.  It is now the largest city in Northwest Montana.  The Charles Conrad mansion was given to the city and is now open as tourist attraction.  The name Kalispell is a Salish indian work meaning “flat land above the lake”.  It has an attractive downtown with about anything one needs, including many casino’s.  Surprisingly, Montana has small casino’s everywhere, every area of the state we have traveled has had many casinos.

The Strand Theater is alive

Another old theater in town now a church

A rock climber figure on the building front

Nice old Hotel

Beauty is in the details

On Monday morning, after getting an oil change and washing the Jeep, I rode south to the town of Somers on the northern edge of Flathead Lake.  It’s always amazing, every town has a story and this is no exception.  I easily could have missed it, if not for Del's broasted chicken Bar and casino.  I stopped take a photo, then noticed across the street a small locomotive and a Great Northern Rail sign.  The sign there told how this was once a company town built in the early 1900's for a Saw Mill operation that supplied all the wooden ties for the Great Northern Railroad.  The small engine on display was used at the Sawmill for many years.  There was also a interesting story about engine 215 that rolled away and ran through a tool shed and then off the dock and into Flathead Lake.  It actually was hoisted back out and saved.  Del's Bar also appeared to be an interesting place to spend some time.

Del's Bar, note the sign on the roof about the Hokey Pokey

Old Sawmill engine

In the afternoon, we rode north to the town of Whitefish.  It remains an active Amtrak station and has a very impressive Depot that was saved by the Stumptown Historical Society.  The Historical Society bought it from Burlington Northern Railroad for $1.00, then raised $800,000  to renovate it.  Whitefish was originally called stump town as the original townsite was full of stumps.  The historical Society has a small museum inside the Depot with good stuff and many stories to tell.  Afterwards we roamed around Whitefish a bit and stopping for a beer at “The Great Northern Brewing Company”.  This brewery was started in 1995, is very state of the art and the tallest building in Whitefish.

Downtown Whitefish

Whitefish Depot

These guys cut down that 500 year old tree with pride ?

What a view !

These custom built busses called, The Bruck, were used to
transport train passengers between Whitefish and Kalispell

That's really great !

Whitefish is also a major ski town with Whitefish Ski area a few miles away.  The downtown area has much history and several original buildings, but they are mostly all covered up behind new false fronts, wood siding, etc.  They have historical information and photos on each historical building, but the buildings no longer have much resemblance to the original.  The downtown is nice though, lots of shops, restaurants and rustic appearing bars for the tourists and ski crowd.

Next stop is Glacier National Park;
Twinkles and Slick


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